by Staff Reporter
May 23, 2013 (TSR) – French prosecutors questioned International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde on Thursday as part of an investigation into a large payout to a businessman in 2008 when she served as the French finance minister.
Lagarde arrived at the Court of Justice of the Republic on Thursday morning to answer questions over her role in a controversial arbitrage deal that handed some 400 million euros (about 515 million U.S. dollars) to magnate Bernard Tapie.
Lagarde is the target of the investigation for “complicity in forgery and embezzlement of public funds.”
The money was used to settle a dispute with state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais over the botched sale of Adidas in the 1990s.
The hearing could run into Friday and after that Lagarde, who has denied any wrongdoing, could be placed under formal investigation or would be considered as a supervised witness.
Lagarde Lagarde is not accused of financially profiting herself from the payout and denies any wrongdoing, but the court is targeting her for complicity in the misuse of funds because as Sarkozy’s finance minister, she overruled advisers to seek the settlement.
Her lawyer Yves Repiquet said that Lagarde’s court appearance will give her for the first time “the opportunity to provide (the CJR) with explanations and clarifications that exempt her from any criminal responsibility.”
Tapie said on Thursday he was “delighted” the affair was being investigated. While earlier probes had found his settlement to be perfectly legal, further examination would show how justified he had been in seeking compensation, he said to Reuters.
“If there had been anything untoward in the arbitration it would have come out a long time ago,” he told Europe 1 radio, adding: “None of these legal cases are to see if I am dishonest, they are to find out how much I was robbed of.”
In March, French police searched Lagarde’s home in Paris as a primary probe.